Ex-soldier set for family reunion after Indian arms charges dropped

Darlington and Stockton Times: CHARGES DROPPED: Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick Garrison, was among a group of six Britons held over arms on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio CHARGES DROPPED: Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick Garrison, was among a group of six Britons held over arms on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio

A FORMER serviceman is set to return to his family after being held for months in India over arms charges.

Married father-of-two Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, was among a group of six ex-British soldiers providing anti-piracy protection on board MV Seaman Guard Ohio, who were arrested in October.

Following a visit to India earlier this month by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who had pledged to raise the issue of the group's detention, Indian authorities dropped all the charges.

Indian authorities had claimed the vessel had entered Indian waters illegally with weapons on board, despite AdvanFort, the firm employing the men, insisting the ship had the correct papers.

Five of the six, including Mr Simpson, were bailed in April, but could not leave India.

Earlier this year, Mr Simpson's wife, Tracy, said she and their sons, Jai, and Sam, had been devastated by 43-year-old former sergeant's detention.

The charity Mission to Seafarers, which has worked to ensure the crew received the care and support they needed through prison visiting, public awareness campaigns and family liaison work, said it hoped to have the Britons reunited with their families in the next week to ten days.

The Ukrainian captain of the ship is still facing charges of illegal bunkering, a spokeswoman for the Mission added.

They were working for AdvanFort, which claimed all the weapons had been properly registered, in the Indian Ocean when their ship was detained.

An AdvanFort spokesman said: "This has been a long waited for decision and we'd like to thank everyone who had continuous faith in us, offered support and helped us get through this challenge."

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